Meeting Mati

Mati, Davao Oriental– We spent our holy week break at this south-eastern part of the Philippine archipelago facing the Philippine Sea and the vast Pacific Ocean. Not coincidentally, this family trip was literally a trip down memory lane, at least for the oldies in the group, since Mati had been part of our family history, my folks having met there and three of us brothers were born in Mati. Unfortunately, we moved to Cotabato City before I would have turned three years old that explains why I don’t have any memory at all of this quaint little town (now city) which I write down as my birthplace whenever I fill out a form that asks for it. This trip to Mati was long overdue, especially for me who have not been back since the day we moved out in the early 80s.

A screenshot of Dahican Beach in google Maps showing its long stretch of white powdery sand, the inviting torquiose sea and the coconut plantations guarding the Dahican Beach

Online Check

Like meeting someone for the first time, I did all the background check on Mati online. Logically, most of the travel preparations were also made through the internet. In this digital age, travel has really become a bliss. Mati government’s official website was not very helpful. It is a literal bulletin board, no more no less. It is not interactive, it does not offer helpful travel information and its directory of restaurants and resorts does not link users to a particular establishment’s website. Fail.

Luckily, bloggers and online travel magazines rescued the otherwise scant information about Mati on the web. This article by Nina Tirol-Zialcita gives not only an exciting and exacting narrative of her travel to Mati but also a montage of great photos. Then there is the soulfully romantic travel story by Nathalie Tomada published in PhilStar.com giving both historical tidbits and future prospects of this faraway paradise. And when it rains, it pours! I stumbled on Travels & Interests, Amazing Davao, and tons of tips and tricks to Mati from my award-winning and prolific travel blogger-friend and Davao Oriental-born Olan. Thanks to Google, and to our local bloggers, I found a wealth of travel information about Mati. I also received a long email from my local friend listing all the things I can do- eat, visit, drink- while in Mati. Now these are the kind of links that should be featured in a local government tourism website!

Booking

I did my reservations after checking out the most interesting places written about Mati. Considering that we will be traveling as a big group with kids in tow, I deliberately skipped the island camping trips and kept a mental note of where to go next when I will be back in Mati. Belatedly, I discovered (online of course!) Joji Alcantara’s breathtaking photos of and Journeying James’ journey to Waniban Island, a truly secret paradise that attracts a wanderer like a magnet to a steel.

For accommodations, I chose the quiet Tropical Kanakbai that promises a secluded and pampered vacation like no other. Unfortunately, all other days are taken so I just decided to stay here for a day and move to Botona Dahican Beach Resort the next day. I called both resorts, placed my reservations and paid reservation fees through BPI and BDO online. Sweet and no sweat! For our vehicle requirement, Davao has plenty of car rental providers but this one I found to be the cheapest and thankfully reliable.

Eye Ball

Finally the big day arrived. Our driver came 30 minutes before the appointed time. It is a new Grandia, sparklingly clean inside and out. That gives me a sort of assurance that we have a responsible driver with us.

Some three hours later, we were welcomed by the sight of Pujada Bay, and a geological formation popularly known as the Sleeping Dinosaur. After a hearty lunch at my aunt’s place, we proceeded to Tropical Kanakbai, our home for the night.

Kanakbai delivered on its promise. It is located at the far beach end of a coconut plantation. It is quiet (before we arrived), there are plenty of lounge chairs and hammocks hanging between tall trees, the beach is just a few steps away from the guest house, and there’s plenty of space for kids to run around.

There are only 2 guest houses with each guest house having two big bedrooms with large king-sized beds and toilets complete with the usual toiletries found in respectable hotels. The rooms are on the second floor, with a veranda that offers a good view of the landscaped garden, the white sand beach and the deep blue sea beyond. At the ground floor is an open air (minimal walls), open space (no dividers) living room cum kitchen cum dining area. The living room has comfortable couches and satellite TV while the kitchen is equipped with cooking and dining utensils, a coffeemaker (bring your own ground beans though but flowing instant coffee is available all day all night), hot and cold water dispenser, refrigerator- all the works! The biggest surprise was each guest house is assigned with one all-around helper who can cook your meals, do the dishes and keep the place tidy. There is also a billiard table and some gym weights, perhaps for a last minute work-out to get that beach body tone. For kids, a wading pool can be had. It is a good enough diversion to keep the kids happy and wet especially when parents shy away from the heat of the midday sun. Kanakbai is a perfect place for couples in honeymoon, solo travelers on a retreat and big families like ours.

The Botona Dahican Beach Resort on the other hand is a stark contrast. I’m sure Botona had its heyday as a charming little resort but poor maintenance of its existing facilities has deterioted the whole place. But Botona is also sky apart from Kanakbai in terms of fees. So I guess we get what we paid for.

And the Dahican Beach? Wow, the photos can tell you more than the words that I can put in.

All in all, it was a memorable trip down Mati, my birthplace, my home once. In this age of the Internet, travel has become more convenient and people have become more trustful. We trust that the websites we visit are real and not hacks, we trust our bank system that payments will reach the faraway resorts, we trust the van rental service and the designated driver, we trust Google Maps and the mapmakers, we trust the the bloggers and their stories.

The Internet has admittedly changed the way we travel. But some things remain the same, maybe better – we still have trust in humanity.

This is our epiphany.

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Sidetrip: Rizal sa Dapitan

Josephine, Josephine
Who to these shore have come
Looking for a nest, a home,  
Like a wandering swallow;

If your fate is taking you
To Japan, China or Shanghai,
Don’t forget on these shores
  A heart for you beats high.

To Josephine, Jose Rizal c 1890

Visiting Dapitan made me go back to the writings of Rizal, our hero who until now has not found peace for his rightful place in our nation’s history.  Hero or traitor, revolutionary or reformist, God-fearing or atheist, Jose Rizal is no doubt the greatest Filipino who ever lived.

Beside a spacious beach of fine and delicate sand
and at the foot of a mountain greener than a leaf,
I planted my humble hut beneath a pleasant orchard,
seeking in the still serenity of the woods
repose to my intellect and silence to my grief.

Its roof is fragile nipa; its floor is brittle bamboo;
its beams and posts are rough as rough-hewn wood can be;
of no worth, it is certain, is my rustic cabin;
but on the lap of the eternal mount it slumbers
and night and day is lulled by the crooning of the sea.

The overflowing brook, that from the shadowy jungle
descends between huge bolders, washes it with its spray,
donating a current of water through makeshift bamboo pipes
that in the silent night is melody and music
and crystalline nectar in the noon heat of the day
.

From My Retreat, 1895

Rizal spent his last living years in Dapitan, before he was executed in December 1896.  Aware of the fate that awaits him in Manila, he spent his exile years in Dapitan building a school, a hospital and a water system.  He became the first barrio doctor and barrio teacher.  It is also in Dapitan that Jose Rizal found his one (of many) true love in Josephine Bracken.  It is a pity and a source of wonder that their son Francisco did not survive to live.

To doubt God is to doubt one’s own conscience, and in consequence, it would be to doubt everything; and then what is life for? Now then, my faith in God, if the result of a ratiocination may be called faith, is blind, blind in the sense of knowing nothing. I neither believe nor disbelieve the qualities which many attribute to him; before theologians’ and philosophers’ definitions and lucubrations of this ineffable and inscrutable being I find myself smiling. Faced with the conviction of seeing myself confronting the supreme Problem, which confused voices seek to explain to me, I cannot but reply: ‘It could be; but the God that I foreknow is far more grand, far more good: Plus Supra!

I believe in (revelation); but not in revelation or revelations which each religion or religions claim to possess. Examining them impartially, comparing them and scrutinizing them, one cannot avoid discerning the human ‘fingernail’ and the stamp of the time in which they were written… No, let us not make God in our image, poor inhabitants that we are of a distant planet lost in infinite space.  However, brilliant and sublime our intelligence may be, it is scarcely more than a small spark which shines and in an instant is extinguished, and it alone can give us no idea of that blaze, that conflagration, that ocean of light. I believe in revelation, but in that living revelation which surrounds us on every side, in that voice, mighty, eternal, unceasing, incorruptible, clear, distinct, universal as is the being from whom it proceeds, in that revelation which speaks to us and penetrates us from the moment we are born until we die. 

From Rizal’s letter to Father Pastell, c 1890

 

That was a mouthful from our national hero.  His thoughts on religion remind me of Dan Brown’s The Lost Symbol, that advances man is part of God, or the concept of at-one-ment.  Being a Freemason himself, Rizal might have already  known “the secret” at that time.

Island Camping in Calaguas

My summer has just begun, in Calagua Group of Islands.

Located in the quiet town of Vinzons in Camarines Norte, it took us a good 8-hour bus ride to get there from Manila. Vinzons as the jump off point,  it will take another 2 hours aboard a small banca  to reach the white soft sandy beaches of Calaguas.

We stayed in Mahabang Buhangin (Long Beach), camping style.  Although not far from us is a campsite where beachcombers from Manila are also camped out – Paris Hilton style – buffet meals, generators, toilets and bath.  That camp is a regular program organized by the provincial tourism office, where tourists are literally transported to Calaguas in style.  But I think it defeats the purpose and essence of camping – being one with nature, going back to basics, getting dirty, forgetting the conveniences of a fast, wild world.  But anyway, to each, his own preference.  I just hope that this kind of camping won’t turn into one big noisy beach parties in the future.  That will totally negate the serenity of island.

This is my second time to go island camping, and truth is, it is addictive.  It makes me think of buying camping gears for my forthcoming adventures – my own tent, cooking set, backpack, and of course, every camper’s gadget- a DSLR camera.

Enjoy the rest of the photos I took using my Panasonic Lumix FX30…

By the way, thanks to Dell’s Moymoy for ably organizing this trip, Phrasyant for the Indian cultural induction, Ghian for bringing me in and to Kuya Boy and entourage for very the warm reception.

Sidetrip: Lake Sebu

I was only 15 years old when I first got to know of a place called Lake Sebu.  I went there on an Earth Science class field trip to conduct a field laboratory study that involves analyzing soil and water conditions of the lake and its surroundings.  I don’t remember what the analyses were, but I remember that Lake Sebu and the Seven Falls are sights of awe and wonder, a place for tranquility and a paradise of enchantment.

So when the opportunity to see Lake Sebu came, 15 years after, I got excited.  The opportunity came with a free lunch.  Literally.  The excitement doubled.

From General Santos City, we took a 2-hour drive through the National Highway past the municipalities of Polomolok, Tupi and the City of Koronadal.  It was my first time to enter the inner (and upper) side of Koronadal as most of the time, I only see the city from a two-way perspective:  the left and the right sides of its wide national highway.   We then drove up further to the upper Alah valley municipalities  of Banga and Surallah before finally reaching the quaint little municipality of Lake Sebu. 

Lake Sebu is a 564-hectare natural lake sitting at an altitude of 3,000 feet above sea level.   It is also the name of the municipality whose entire 92,450 hectare land area is proclaimed as a protected watershed area by the national government.   There are two more lakes in Lake Sebu (the municipality) – there’s a small lake called Lake Lahit, which is the first lake to welcome visitors of Lake Sebu.  The other one is Lake Seloton, reputedly the deepest of the three lakes.  Lake Sebu, of course is the biggest among the three.  The T’boli and Ubo tribes are natives of the area.

We had our lunch in Punta Isla Lake Resort.  It was more of a feast actually, where everything served was a tilapia-inspired dish.  Lake Sebu is known for its sweet and juicy tilapias.   We had the floating restaurant all to ourselves.  The highlight of the meal was not the meal itself but the glimpse of T’boli culture shared to us by young T’boli folks through their drum (made of real deer skin), kulintang, and several meaningful ritual dances that include a monkey dance.  We were told that T’bolis believe that monkeys are our ancestors, that is why they are revered.

I had a great time in Lake Sebu.  Too bad we didn’t have had enough time to visit the Seven Falls.  I heard that access to the falls have been made easier, plus there is now a zip line for adventurous tourists who want a breathtaking view of the falls from the sky.

Road Trip Through Muslim Mindanao

This may not be the best time for a road trip across Maguindanao and Lanao provinces but what the heck, this might be my one and final chance.

Few weeks ago, I found myself traversing the island of Mindanao starting from General Santos City in Southern Mindanao up northwest to Pagadian City in Zamboanga del Sur…by land! 

From Gensan, I took an airconditioned Husky bus to Cotabato City for P260.00.  I was early at the Gensan Bus Terminal because I was told that there are only few airconditioned buses  and that it was best for me to take the earliest bus that usually departs at around 8AM.  So I was there a few minutes before 8, excited and ready but the bus that was scheduled to take off was undergoing repair.  Still, like the rest of hapless folks out there, I waited.

The bus arrived at the terminal at past 11AM.  It was the turn around bus from Cotabato City.  It was Friday and there were plenty of passengers.  A few minutes after warming my seat, we were off to our first stop:  Koronadal City.  And because it was Friday and it was the first (and only) airconditioned bus to leave that day, the passengers easily filled the bus.  Some were already standing when we stopped by Koronadal.

Most of the passengers were government employees from regional offices that were once located in Cotabato City.  A few years back, Koronadal became host to these regional offices.  Many of the employees found themselves dislocated by the transfer.  So they take the early day off on Fridays to be home safe in Cotabato City before sunset.  I assume that they also leave noon time on Mondays from Cotabato City and arrive in Koronadal before 5PM.  That means they are at work on their desks from Tuesday to Thursday only.  This makes a good case study on efficient government service but I won’t dwell on that.

From Koronadal we passed through the Sultan Kudarat and Maguindanao provinces.  In Sultan Kudarat, there was the vibrant town of Isulan and the surprisingly busy Tacurong City.  Four-lane highway all through-out, wide and concrete without the bumps.  Stalls, restaurants and other forms of enterprise abound along the road.  Signs of progess, I must say.

This draws a sharp contrast to the towns in Maguindanao.  There, it was quiet, eerily quiet.  The houses are closed, most stores are closed, even the transport terminals are on a stand still.  There were lots of government infrastructure in the area, very new but empty– public markets, transport terminals, health centers and the palatial provincial hall and town halls.  Then there are those roofed cubicles (these are housing projects not larger than 2X2 meters that are made of flyboard and a GI sheet for a roof) that lined up the highway. 

At past 2Pm, we arrived in Cotabato City where I stayed for a night before leaving again the next day for Pagadian. 

The trip the next day was more comfortable, thanks to the rented Mitsubishi Strada and to nice guy George, my reliable driver for this second leg of the journey.  We left Cotabato City at 7:30 am after a quick breakfast of the city’s famous balbakwa. 

It was my first time in more than 10 years to take the road to Parang, Maguindanao.  I never thought that the place would remind me of things from my childhood- the bridge in Simuay that once serve as our signpost that says we are near Pahm Resort, our favorite R&R place way back then.  It also reminded me of my many times in Polloc, Cotabato’s wharf where my father who once worked for Sulpicio Lines would never miss a Tuesday night working in the port to oversee cargo and passenger loading to M/V Cotabato Princess.  We passed by a barangay named Making and it suddenly occured to me that I have been to this place before.  It had been otherwise buried in my memory but seeing the place again brought me back to my 6th grade where I attended the regional Boy Scouts Jamboree in Making, Parang, Maguindanao as a senior scout fresh from completing the 12th Asia-Pacific Jamboree in Mt. Makiling, Laguna in 1991.  That was the connection.

Past those towns are roads that lead to Buldon, the former stronghold of Moro Islamic Liberation Front where Camp Abubakar is located.  Remember Erap’s all-out war?  This was the place.

Going further north is the Province of Lanao del Sur.  I say this place is mystical and deserves a lot more of my time to examine and experience its quiet charm.  But all I had was a quick glimpse.  Too bad I didn’t even see the lake.

Lanao del Sur borders Lanao del Norte to the north, Bukidnon to the east, and Maguindanao and Cotabato to the south. To the southwest lies Illana Bay, an arm of the Moro Gulf. Found in the interior of Lanao del Sur is Lanao Lake, the largest lake in Mindanao, where the Maria Cristina Falls, the largest waterfall in the country is located.  Marawi City, the Islamic City of the Philippines is its capital.  Then there are the quaint little towns of Malabang and Balabagan, where former Supreme Court Justice Jose Abad Santos was killed by the Japanese Imperial Army in 1942.  The national highway linking the two Lanao provinces is named after him.

Going further north is Sultan Naga Dimaporo in Lanao del Norte, the last town I guess before finally reaching Tukuran of Zamboanga del Sur.  At past 11 in the morning, we found ourselves taking our lunch at Mang Inasal Chicken house in the newly-opened Gaisano Mall in Pagadian City.

That was a long and tiresome travel.  Bt it was neveretheless priceless.  Most people who have lived in Mindanao all their lives have never ever tried to take this road less travel, literally.  I was glad that this trip went well and ended without incident.  Although I felt exhilarated by the scenic Illana Bay and the coastal towns surrounding the Moro gulf, by the wonderful tunnel that cuts across a hill, by the Muslim children playing and walking in their traditional garb, by the surprisingly new and wide roads that looked like it was only built yesterday, the feeling of fear and the thought of mishap never left me. 

Roads are supposed to connect people and ideas, promote exchange of culture and trade, and become avenues for communication.  I hope that the road that leads to Pagadian City, from this southern city in South Cotabato (and all other road networks in Mindanao) will serve as our people’s expressway for peace, prosperity and development.

Holiday in Hongkong

Here’s to share some details of my recent trip to Hongkong , just in case someone would need a good reference.

Airfare

Promo fares are real sulit deals.  Although Philippine Airlines got my and thousand other people’s ire for their problematic Real Deal promo last April, its Way to Go Promo in June 2009 was a successful recovery.  Where before tickets can only be bought from the airline’s unreliable website for only a day, the Way to Go, as if an act of apology to disgruntled customers, allowed customers to purchase tickets from all of PAL’s distribution channels (web, travel agencies, ticketing offices) and lasted for three days. 

Damage:  US$ 151.40 or $50.46 per person (approximately Pesos: 2,422.50)

PAL eticket

Hotel

We were billeted at Park Hotel in Tsim Sha Tsui, East Kowloon.  From outside, the entrance to the hotel is just a wide two-door glass door that opens to a narrow hallway where one can find four elevator cars at the end.  Up on the 4th floor is the busy reception area and a line of incoming guests.  The check in process took us only a few minutes, thanks to the responsive and courteous hotel staff.  After that a bell boy escorted us to our room on the 6th floor.  No tip as the bell boy was gone before I can finish figuring out how much a respectable tip should cost me.

Everyday is a feast in Hong Kong, as cuisines from all over the world are easily accessible.  Chinese cuisine presents itself in many varieties:  Cantonese, Shechuan, Hong Kong. From street food to hotel food, hole in the all to usual american fastfood, eating out in Hong Kong is a delightful experience.

Food. Everyday is a feast in Hong Kong, as cuisines from all over the world are easily accessible. Chinese cuisine presents itself in many varieties: Cantonese, Shechuan, Hong Kong. From street food to hotel food, hole in the wall to usual american fastfood, eating out in Hong Kong is a delightful experience.

Our well-appointed three-bed room was a pleasant surprise.  It has a wide window facing the C Road and the park beyond.  There was ample space to move around.  Same with the bathroom. When I turned on the TV set, a personalized welcome note was flashed on the screen.  What I liked most, and this occured to me only after a day of walking around the city, was the pipe in soothing classical music that made us to soundly fall asleep at night.  Downside:  no complimentary drinking water and it did not mention anywhere either whether the tap water was potable. 

disney       

Breakfast the next day was a feast of dimsum,congee,  bread and pastries, noodles, yoghurt, fruits and juices and the usual bacon and eggs, sausages, cold cuts and cheeses.  Brewed coffee was of course delightfully bottomless.  Downside:  As in most hotels, food does not vary from the first day to the last. 

Damage:  US$206 per person or around P3,296 per person per day.  This includes the daily free breakfast,  airport transfers both inbound and outbound and a half day city tour on board a tourist coach.

Tour

The city tour was very organized.  Tour group operator was at our meeting area at the agreed time.  There were 24 tourists on board the airconditioned bus, mostly family on vacation from countries like the USA, Philippines, India and Australia.  Our tour guide was a Hongkong local, young yet authoritative but without being bossy or difficult.  He was very articulate and seems to be perfectly matched with what he does.

Steel.  Technology is a friend to Hong Kong.  They have built almost everything from underwater tunnel, multi-level escalators, breathtaking bridges and skyscrapers, to railways and funiculars making transport and travel fast and easy- be it horizontal, vertical or diagonal.

Steel. Technology is a friend to Hong Kong. They have built almost everything from underwater tunnel, multi-level escalators, breathtaking bridges and skyscrapers, to railways and funiculars making transport and travel fast and easy- be it horizontal, vertical or diagonal.

Man Mo Temple

Hong Kong’s magnificent Man Mo Temple is among the oldest and most well-known temples in the territory. It was built in 1848, during the early years of British rule in Hong Kong. Though it’s been rebuilt a number of times, much of the original structure still remains.

 The words Man Mo mean “civil” and “military”, and this temple, like many other Man Mo Temples located throughout China, is dedicated to two very different gods. Man Cheong is the God of Literature while the name Mo refers to Kwan Yu, the god of war or martial valor.

The Victoria Peak

Victoria Peak is the highest point of Hong Kong island where tourists can enjoy a bird’s-eye view of Hong Kong.  The best and most enjoyable way to reach The Peak Tower is via the Peak Tram, one of Hong Kong’s oldest forms of transportation. This funicular railway first went into operation in 1888 and has since become a vital transportation link as well as a popular tourist attraction.

Aberdeen Fishing Village

A 20-minute boat ride on board a traditional sampan or chinese junk, this part of the tour is where the modern meets the ancient Hong Kong, where boat people lived on floating boathouses against a backdrop of skyscrapers.  Our guide emphasized that the boat people may have survived the modernization of Hong Kong, but not until 6-10 years from now, as most of the young ones have decided to abandon their water-based past and has already opted for a life onshore.  

Water.  As a peninsula, Hong Kong has a long romance with the sea- as a source of income, dwelling, transportation, etc.  As a small islands city, the sea has in several occasions sacrificed itself in favor of the more in demand land space.  Reclamation projects are still going on in Hong Kong, creating artificial lands by eating the water out.

Water. As a peninsula, Hong Kong has a long romance with the sea- as a source of income, dwelling, transportation, etc. As a small islands city, the sea has in several occasions sacrificed itself in favor of the more in demand land space. Reclamation projects are still going on in Hong Kong, creating artificial lands by eating the water out.

Repulse Bay and Stanley Market were part of the tour but we have to miss these two wonderful sights for Hong Kong Disneyland.  From our hotel in Kowloon Island, we passed through HK’s underground tunnel that connects Kowloon and Hong Kong Island for the half day tour.  From Hong Kong Island, we were on our own to Lantau Island, for our Disneyland adventure.  But the real adventure actually begun when we left the comforts of our tourist bus and embarked on a circuitous maze that was the Hong Kong Mass Railway Transit (MTR).

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Thankfully, I remembered my map reading and orienteering course back in my Boy Scouts days making our commute to Disneyland a breeze.  Credit also goes to kind strangers for helping us get out of the maze.  For efficiency and ease of travel, I suggest that those visiting Hong Kong for more than two days must buy the Octopus card for the hassle-free MTR ride.  Unused credits will be refunded anyway.

MTR Damage:  HK$300 at HK$150 each (I should have availed of the senior citizen discount!), although I got a refund of more than HK$100 for the deposit and unused fare credits.

Disneyland Damage:  Just a few HK$ for meals (relatively cheap meals at the Banquet, with interesting choices at that), drinks (ugh! expensive) and souvenir shopping (crass commercialism at its worst).  Admission courtesy of a friend working for Disney.  Great times!

Gold.  Red, green and gold are the colors of Hong Kong, all three symbolizes a singular object:  prosperity.

Gold. Red, green and gold are the colors of Hong Kong, all three symbolizes a singular object: prosperity.

Side Trips

Outside of the tour package, we went to the Avenue of the Stars to witness the Symphony of Lights and enjoy the colorful play of lights and sounds at the Hong Kong harbor.  Haggling at the night markets of Kowloon and Temple Street was equally enjoyable.  Street food and seafood meal along Temple Street should not be missed out.  Burp.

Parenting the Parents

My birthday trip to the Hongkong Peninsula and Macau Islands was my first vacation abroad with my two mothers: my real nanay, Ara and my guardian-surrogate mom in Manila since 1996, Achie (Ara’s older sister).  The vacation was my gift of sorts to myself (for hitting 30), to my mother (she turned 60 last June), and to Achie (for taking care of me especially during my pimply college years).

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It was also my first travel in style, so to speak, as I always prefer no frills travel over the touristy ones.  But on this trip I half-heartedly decided to get a package tour considering that the travel was not solely for me, and that  getting around without a defined agenda would most likely become a problem with the senior citizens that I am with.

How did I survive?  Pretty well, and big thanks to Rocel of Swire Travel and to Joseph for the referral.  We had a nice hotel with a big bathroom, three beds, pipe in classical music, free breakfast, courteous hotel staff and in a good location at that.  We had a reliable transport service and a perfect itinerary for our day tours.

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The success of any package tour begins with choosing the right travel agency.  Honestly, I was a little apprehensive at first because I find Rocel difficult to deal with sometimes, but I pushed through with it confident that Joseph will not fail me.

So for four days and three nights last week, I and my two moms took a role reversal exercise, I as the nurturing parent and they, well, as the hard-headed-spoiled-kids-trying-to-be-adults.  What can be funnily worse than that?

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I have to be ahead of them when they feel like taking a stroll, but I have to look back every so often so I won’t lose them.  I have to be behind them when we are in crowded places, for the same reason.  I have to wait for them while they take their own sweet time looking at things that interest them, while they won’t even bother to stop and wait for me when I ogle at things that catch my attention.  They can be really makulit and would insist on the right direction even when it was I who holds the map and it was I who spent some five minutes to study it–diligently! 

I also took the role of the official photographer, their official photographer!  Everywhere we go, I asked them to stop so I can take good pictures of the nicest backgrounds.  But they won’t volunteer to get a photo of me leaving me by my hapless self to take my own pictures.  My real mom would not even dare touch, out of fear, either my digital camera or my iPhone as if these gadgets can cause leprosy! 

Here’s a photo that she took when I finally convinced her to use my iPhone as I was getting a little frustrated already because my digicam ran out of battery.  Darn!

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This is not at all to ridicule my parents whom I so love dearly, but only to get my message across, that sometime in the near future, we could turn out to be just like our parents.  Such is the circle of life, so it would be better if we stretch our patience longer and take time to understand our beloved mommies.  To keep me sane, I would imagine how hard it must have been for my mom to raise three naughty boys back then.  Talk about poetic justice.

All in all, that was a real exhilarating and unforgettable experience.  I was so glad that we did it, and did it great.  Now we are planning another tour, Malaysia-Singapore perhaps, and this time, more family members are wanting to come with us.  That would be an altogether different story.  Abangan!